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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Fools vs. scoundrels

Bob King's failed promise and labor's peril

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When Bob King became head of the incredible shrinking United Auto Workers union two years ago, the word was that he wanted to be the greatest UAW leader since the legendary Walter Reuther.

Instead, he seems more likely to be remembered as the worst leader the union has ever had, and he has a year and a half to go before the UAW will mercifully replace him.

The autoworkers union was well on its way to its all-time high of 1.5 million members when Reuther died in a plane crash near Pellston in 1970. Today, it has barely one-fourth of that. Actually, membership has risen a tiny bit in the last year, as the domestic automakers have come back from their near-death experience. But the union still has only 380,000 members, and about one-third of those are in non-automotive occupations.

Most new hires now come in at a second-class wage scale of less than $30,000 a year. Two-tier wage scales were one of the many things unions wanted to prevent, back in the day.

To which today's leaders say: Well, hey. Someday we'll be strong again.

When King got elected in June 2010, he vowed to pursue "equality of gain," under which the rich guys running the corporations would share their renewed profits with the workers.

Right. OK, if you are finished laughing bitterly, he also vowed to begin organizing the "transplants," the auto factories, mostly in the South, owned by foreign companies.

When King became president, the UAW represented workers at none of these plants. Today, well ... the union represents workers at none of these plants. The union was, however, reportedly handing out material a few months ago at a new Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

Be still, my beating heart. The King-led UAW's biggest mistake, however, one that must have depleted the union's treasury, came this year. The UAW threw everything it had behind the drive to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

They spent millions. Opponents spent millions, and the unions lost, big-time. The collective bargaining amendment went down roughly 57 percent to 42 percent. Voters in Flint and Detroit supported it, and it got killed virtually everywhere else.

Not surprisingly, Republicans in the Legislature are now gleefully jumping on this as a chance to destroy unions once and for all, by making Michigan a "right-to-work" state, like Indiana.

That would mean the union shop, where all workers have to join a union, or agree to be represented by it, would be outlawed. For all practical purposes, that would mean unions would be absolutely powerless, and would probably soon become extinct.

State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is salivating over the prospect of introducing a RTW bill. Shirkey owns a nonunion rivet-making factory in Jackson County, and claims "businesses will not be able to survive unless they treat people right and pay people right."

Yes, I think that's what the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory said, as they locked all those young women in before they burned to death in that famous fire in 1911. Shirkey seems to have gotten up a hate for union work rules when he worked half a year in some GM plants decades ago. Now, few would deny that there has been a lot of silliness and inefficiency in certain unions. But a lot of that has been wrung out of them, especially, perhaps, the battered UAW. American auto factories today aren't the same place as in 1970.

But there's no evidence that unions aren't needed, or that businesses flock to right-to-work states. Minnesota and Vermont, where unions are protected, have among the nation's lowest unemployment rates. Former Detroiter Art Kainz notes that his adopted North Carolina, a RTW state, has unemployment higher than Michigan's. There, he told me, Sunday a Japanese seatbelt manufacturer in Greensboro just announced plans to close.

Sayonara, job security.

Gov. Rick Snyder has repeatedly said right to work "is not on my agenda." But if an RTW bill lands on his desk, he is all but certain to sign it. There were reports late last week that he was open to trying to kill the bill if unions agreed to, essentially, roll over and play dead. 

My guess is that won't fly. Republicans have the votes either now or in the next session to pass right to work if they want to, possibly thanks again to the stupidity of Bob King and his sidekick, perpetual Democratic State Chair Mark Brewer. 

Imagine if the union had taken the money — as much as $20 million — spent on the collective bargaining amendment and used it instead on a carefully targeted attempt to win control of the Legislature.

Democrats did gain five seats in the House last month, after losing a staggering 20 seats, and control, two years before. But Republicans still control the chamber, 59 seats to 51.

Had a mere 3,000 votes switched in the right places, Democrats would now be able to block any of the GOP's crazier bills.

Last week, for example, Michigan refused to create a state-run health care exchange, to help uninsured residents and small businesses find health care policies, now that President Obama's affordable care act is kicking in.

Republicans are supposed to be for local control. But they refused to create a health care exchange, and left that to the federal government. Why? Because they don't like Obamacare.

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